“If you want to turn off Bitcoin, you’ll have to turn off the Internet”: Christophe De Beukelaer interview

Christophe De Beukelaer gained notoriety in the blockchain world when he agreed in early 2022 to receive his salary as an MEP in Brussels in Bitcoin (via a monthly conversion). Thus he became the first Member of Parliament in Europe to “receive his salary in cryptocurrency”.

A management engineer and member of the Les Engagés party, Christophe De Beukelaer co-founded Blockchain Week in Brussels and is very active in the “crypto coexistence”. He agreed to answer questions from BeinCrypto:

  • For one year, you have received your salary in Bitcoin. Do you regret it or is it a success? A symbol?

No, I have no regrets. I think it is exactly a strong political act. Indeed, it was not a financial act, but a political act to convert my salary into Bitcoin for a year, because there is a real political vision behind it. I want to put the issue of financial literacy, financial access and innovation on the political agenda.

I have also tried to do it in other ways: through various conferences I have asked questions in parliament. But I must have noticed that the lines didn’t move much. That’s why I decided to undertake this strong political act to raise awareness and demonstrate to citizens, my colleagues, public and private decision-makers that something was happening. I wanted to show them that we could not miss this great digital, monetary and social revolution that is the decentralization of our entire society.

Yes, it is a symbol, I want to be clear, it is not a financial act. I am not encouraging anyone for it pour in their money one way or another. On the other hand, I encourage reflection, training, the fact that we are mindful of this new situation. In this way, monetary issues would not only be handled by a handful of people, economists and financiers in big banks, in central banks, but they would become a democratic and social issue. That is why I wanted to do this as a politician.

  • Do you think that Challenges (Decentralized Finance) should replace traditional finance (centralized finance) or should both coexist?

It’s a good question. If I could change anything in my political act, it would be to change only half of my salary to Bitcoin. It would be clearer. Not for financial reasons, because I was ready to do the political act. But I think the political act would have been stronger saying that I was taking half my salary in BTC to really demonstrate my political vision. This is because I think that tomorrow the two types of finance will coexist.

We will continue to have centralized finance, managed by states, which will make it possible to run part of the economy, and to run our society in certain places where it is necessary, but in addition we will have a decentralized finance (DeFi) that will develop and that will force centralized finance to be a little more prudent, a little more reasonable in its management. In my opinion both will co-exist, we cannot predict what will happen next, but at first they will co-exist.

Moreover, I always encourage when I speak before assemblies of crypto-enthusiasts, I always tell them not to position themselves against the traditional financial world, but to work with it and gradually find their place. The big issue is not whether decentralized finance will emerge or not, it is already there. If you want to turn off Bitcoin, you will have to turn off the Internet. We won’t, and as long as the internet exists, so will Bitcoin. However, the numbers show increasing adoption.

The only way for centralized finance to get out of this is cooperation. It is to see where decentralized finance is stronger and more important, and conversely in which subjects centralized financing is preferred. Therefore, the aim is to create bridges between them, in order to ensure that all the wealth that circulates in decentralized finance also contributes to our societies and to the financing of public services. So we need connections between the two, that’s the challenge for the coming years. Even if things may change in the long term, I think in the medium term we will have a coexistence of the two. In any case, this is the call of my wishes.

  • In addition to cryptocurrencies, Blockchain technology brings the possibility of creating decentralized autonomous organizations. (CAD). In your opinion, is this a sustainable model of governance for our societies?

I think you have to understand that blockchain started to become popular not too long ago, about ten years or so. We are only at the beginning of this technology and what it can bring.

I think that Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are still uncertain in their operation and if some things are possible and some evolutions have already happened, I think that this will all continue to evolve to go extremely far. We still cannot decide whether this is a sustainable way of governing or not. Yes, for some things it is. But I don’t think today, apart from these prototypes working on a small scale, we can be ready for DAOs to replace all modes of governance in our society, it will take a long time. We have to accept this.

It is very good that some tests, try. On the other hand, our countries must be pioneers, Europe must be pioneers in this. I would be very happy if in Belgium we would create a test regulatory framework, like SandBox, where we would give DAOs some legal autonomy and recognition as separate organizations. This raises many questions, legal and technical challenges, but these questions must be addressed. If Belgium were to do this, it would be a first step towards attracting investors and dynamism of Web 3 in the country.

We must try to be pioneers in these areas to show that Brussels and Belgium are “Web 3 friendly” countries and that we are welcoming and dynamic on these topics.

  • Sustainable development is close to your heart. Can Blockchain technology play a positive role in it despite Bitcoin’s negative environmental image and the will of European states to ban POW (Proof of Work)?

Yes indeed; sustainable development and the fight against climate change are at the center of my political commitment. On the other hand, I think that looking at the blockchain with this eye is not indicated. For what reasons? Well, you always have to see what the technology is for. I’m all about numerical accuracy. It means using digital where it is necessary and where it is right.

In the case of Bitcoin, we are addressing a fundamental problem which is extremely social, democratic and which raises the issue of access to finance and the role of finance in our society. Finance is the lifeblood of our economy. Bitcoin has a role to play in that, not to replace the entire financial system, but to come in and replace and improve certain parts.

We can accept the expenditure of energy when there is an important role behind it. If we look at the operation of central banks today and their monetary policies in recent years, we are doing more harm to the planet than what a blockchain like Bitcoin can do. Why? Because actually with the monetary printing that we have, the “quantitative easing”, where every time we are afraid of blocking the economy, we re-inject energy into the system by printing money, it is actually about encouraging people to consume.

So instead of solving the structural problems of the economy, instead of making the necessary reforms, this is actually a headlong rush. A stubborn rush that feeds consumerism and materialism. Many people have been asking for a long time how to get out of this consumer society, but no one has a solution and we always hear that “capitalism is the least evil system”.

And we really can’t invent something new? Well, I think blockchain can be a first step towards this new economy, which is not based only on increased consumption. Because Bitcoin, unlike fiat (government currencies), is inherently deflationary because the number of BTC is pre-limited in its code, and therefore you cannot add or print bitcoins as you wish. This makes it a currency that is fundamentally different from traditional currencies, and I think it’s something that will help us get out of this consumer society, which is the real source of the climate crisis problem we’re experiencing.

Others will go into more detail than I, but I think there are other considerations. We have to compare the energy expenditure of Bitcoin with the energy expenditure of the traditional financial system which is certainly much higher.

Second, the system Proof of Work and Bitcoin mining is done in such a way that miners are encouraged to use renewable electricity that is abundant near hydro plants in particular, so we see that the electricity used by miners is going green super fast.

Third, we are still in the early days of this technology, but impressive advances are already being made. Some change the mechanism of consensus, which goes to Proof of Pin; is one of the options. And there is also evidence of work, in particular Bitcoin, which is advancing very strongly with Lightning Network. Other technological advances will occur and it is important to monitor the ability of this technology to evolve.

  • What are your future projects in the blockchain field?

In my projects about Blockchain, I especially want to talk to you about Blockchain Week in Brussels since the first edition took place in June 2022, and the next one will take place from 8 to 11 June 2023. It is truly a founding moment where the entire ecosystem contributes, with meetings, conferences, trainings and seminars.

The idea is not only to provide a meeting point for all Blockchain enthusiasts, all Belgian and European companies, but also to use the Brussels brand as a springboard for a real dialogue taking place between European institutions and the blockchain entrepreneurial world. Also be the stepping stone for people who don’t know much about it, or not yet, but want to understand how Web 3 will change their life, work and society.

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